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White Nationalist Rally In Virginia Turns Violent; Emergency Declared

August 12, 2017

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Updated Aug. 12 at 12:21 p.m. ET

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has declared a state of emergency, according to a tweet from his account. The declaration allows the state to assist in the response to the violence sparked during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted his disdain at the views of those assembling, calling them “repugnant.”

Updated Aug. 12 at 11:52 a.m. ET

Hundreds of people are screaming, throwing water bottles, chanting, throwing punches and using chemical sprays against one another ahead of a planned white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., according to The Associated Press.

Police at the park have declared the assembly unlawful and have directed attendees to disperse, according to a Facebook post by the Charlottesville Police Department.

Charlottesville city officials have issued a declaration of local emergency, which allows them to “request additional resources if needed to respond to ongoing events in the community,” according to a Facebook post by Charlottesville police.

The original story continues below.

Thousands of people are expected to arrive in Charlottesville on Saturday to participate in, or protest against, a white nationalist rally called to oppose plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a city park.

The “Unite the Right” rally is expected to draw a lot of people from out of town. It follows last month’s Ku Klux Klan rally that drew about 50 Klan members and about 1,000 counterprotesters.

For those who live around the University of Virginia, this is not expected to be a quiet weekend.

In a Facebook post, Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer wrote, “I am beyond disgusted by this unsanctioned and despicable display of visual intimidation on a college campus.”

In the days leading up to the rally, there had been some back-and-forth about where it would be held.

The Associated Press reports that a federal judge has ordered Charlottesville to allow the rally to take place at its originally planned location downtown:

“U.S. District Judge Glen Conrad issued a preliminary injunction Friday in a lawsuit filed against Charlottesville by right-wing blogger Jason Kessler.

“The city announced earlier this week that the rally must be moved out of Emancipation Park to a larger one, citing safety reasons.

“Kessler sued, saying the change was a free speech violation. The judge wrote that Kessler was likely to prevail and granted the injunction.”

After the ruling, The New York Times reports:

“Late Friday night, several hundred torch-bearing men and women marched on the main quadrangle of the University of Virginia’s grounds, shouting, ‘You will not replace us,’ and ‘Jew will not replace us.’ They walked around the Rotunda, the university’s signature building, and to a statue of Thomas Jefferson, where a group of counterprotesters were gathered, and a brawl ensued.”

University President Teresa Sullivan issued a statement after Friday night’s march.

“As President of the University of Virginia, I am deeply saddened and disturbed by the hateful behavior displayed by torch-bearing protestors that marched on our Grounds this evening. I strongly condemn the unprovoked assault on members of our community, including University personnel who were attempting to maintain order.

“Law enforcement continues to investigate the incident, and it is my hope that any individuals responsible for criminal acts are held accountable. The violence displayed on Grounds is intolerable and is entirely inconsistent with the University’s values.”

City officials and police say they are prepared for any violence. Gov. Terry McAuliffe urged Virginians to stay away from the rally and placed the National Guard on standby. The guard released a statement saying it would “closely monitor the situation.”

Earlier this week, All Things Considered host Airi Shapiro reported on Airbnb’s decision to make it harder for people attending the rally to find places to stay. The company canceled the accounts of people that it confirmed had used its platform to book lodging for the event. It says those people defy its community standards. Rally organizers say this should be grounds for a lawsuit.

Debate over the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville began when an African-American high school student started a petition more than a year ago to have it removed. Lee, who was born in Virginia, commanded Confederate forces in the Civil War from 1862 until he surrendered in 1865.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

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